KUCHING: The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has agreed to allow the wild harvest of saltwater crocodiles in Sarawak for commercial use.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said CITES approved Malaysia's proposal to downlist the reptile from its Appendix I to Appendix II at a conference in Johannesburg, South Africa last week.
He said an Appendix II listing means that the animal can be harvested for commercial use.
"There is demand for crocodile meat from countries like China, Thailand and Vietnam, while crocodile skin has high economic value.
"So we will now be allowed to export crocodile meat and skin to other countries," Wan Junaidi told a press conference at the Kuching International Airport on Monday.
He said Malaysia sought the downlisting as the population of saltwater crocodiles (crocodylus porosus) in Sarawak had risen over in the past 30 years to about 13,500 last year, leading to more frequent conflicts with humans.
In Sungai Samarahan, where two attacks were reported last month, the crocodile population has increased by 108.5% since 1985 while Sungai Limbang has seen a 38% increase.
"This exceeds the numbers needed for conservation efforts. The downlisting was approved on the grounds that it will benefit the rural people who depend on rivers as well as boost their economy.
"At the same time, we will ensure that the harvesting is done in a sustainable manner so that the crocodiles will not become extinct," Wan Junaidi said.
He said the downlisting would only come into effect in about six months' time once the necessary regulations are drawn up and put in place.
He also said the harvesting and trade of crocodiles would only be applicable in Sarawak.
"We hope this will reduce the density of crocodiles in rivers as well as human-crocodile conflict," he added.
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